FLANC Ideas 2011

Ok, maybe almost having bronchial pneumonia was a good thing for me this weekend.  I have gone nuts catching up on blogs I love to follow, found some new blogs to follow, and writing up my own posts.  I have missed my personal learning community or professional learning network or whatever it is you want to call it!

I went to the FLANC conference a few weeks ago and got lots of great ideas.  I whipped out my handy little bag full of goodies today and found some things I’d like to post here that may help some other folks.

  • PowerPoint and Motivation in the Classroom – This session had some great ideas on how juice up PowerPoint for your classroom.  One neat idea in particular was how to embed a Flash timer in your PowerPoint.  This might come in really handy for me as I like to put all my warm-ups on PowerPoint.  The kids need something to get them moving as they like to chatter and then before I know it, I’ve lost class time due to so many taking so long to do a short warm-up.  You will need to scroll down a bit to find the presentation she did at FLANC on 10/14/2011.
  • Blog it! How to Implement and Use Communicative Blogging in the FL Classroom – Awesome session from a school where the foreign language department has every student set up with a Google account.  The students then use blogs as digital portfolios so they can publish their work.
  • What’s Cooking in World Languages? – Interesting presentation on how to cook simple foods in class and combine that activity with teaching grammar along the way.  They had an interesting take on using the culture and interest in the food to make grammar (teaching imperative etc.) more palatable for students (no pun intended).
  • Teachers as Advertisers – I didn’t go to this session but another teacher passed the presenter’s link to me.  She has some neat ideas here about teachers being advertisers and teaching foreign language from that point of view.
I have one more that I would like to share but am waiting for a link to the materials.  Enjoy!

Update Time

It has been a while since my last post and I need to update a few items. 

First of all, I am now married to a wonderful Dutch man and am very happy!  We had what I like to call a micro-wedding Dutch style here in Amsterdam three weeks ago.  My family could not be there so we only had 2 witnesses who are dear friends at the ceremony.  It was nice to have such a small ceremony as we were not overly concerned with planning a large event and could put all the focus on our commitment to each other. 

Secondly, we are now working on apply for an immigrant visa for my new husband so we can relocate to the United States this year.  I am so excited about moving back to the States.  I am hoping to start teaching in North Carolina again and really hope I will be able to find a technology facilitator job so I can continue what I started years ago.

Technology is always changing and I know the landscape of educational possibilities is always changing as well.  I look forward to diving back into it all and working with students and teachers to make use of the tools out there. 

Checks and Balances

Greetings from the Netherlands!  Sometime ago I promised to write a post about technology uses I’ve seen here in Europe.  Of course, I have yet to travel all over Europe but I can witness what I’ve seen so far in the Netherlands.

One of the first things I noticed within my first week of living here was how checks are obsolete.  Banks don’t cash them.  People can’t write them.  When you purchase something from a store, you either pay with your debit card, your credit card, or with cash.  

So what does one do when one receives one’s state tax refund in check form?  Send it back to the States!   That’s what I have to do!  Because I’m living abroad I could not e-file my taxes and for that reason, I received my state tax refund by paper check in the mail all the way from Raleigh, NC.  

I’ve also noticed in restaurants how most of the time (even in small villages) the server will take your order on an electronic notepad.  It’s something like a PDA and as soon as the order is placed at the table and entered on the notepad it is electronically communicated to the kitchen.  Of course, if it doesn’t work, they always have pen and paper handy.  

Parking police have similar devices.  They patrol the streets looking for parking licenses (or temporary parking tickets) and offenders who have none.  They enter the license plate number of the vehicle and if that person does not have a valid parking license, they print out a ticket from their handheld device.  

There is a movement underway to convert all medical records to digital files but it is a very controversial idea.  Many feel that digital records would never be safe and those with sensitive medial histories (i.e. someone with HIV) might be at risk for unnecessary exposure.  

Mobile telephones are more advanced here than in the U.S.  There are so many to choose from here, particularly smartphones.  Perhaps that’s one reason why the iPhone has really taken off here as much as in the States.   

If I think of anymore uses of interesting technology here in the Netherlands, I will post an update.

Becoming a TomTommer

icon_registerGreetings all!  Again, it has been a while but I do have some news:  I have a job in the Netherlands at long last!  I was recently hired at TomTom, Europe’s leader in navigational devices.  I am a customer service representative and am in training.  I have learned so much in just a week and still have so much to learn, not just about how to do my job but also how to troubleshoot TomTom devices.

What inspired this post is more about the skills that I will be using in this job that I am assumed to already have upon employment.  I see and hear about a lot of things that should encourage those teaching technology in schools.  Those skills you’re teaching will be used by your students in 21st century jobs.

Here are some basic skills/knowledge that every CSR at TomTom is expected to have upon employment (even though these were not all specifically asked about in interviews):

  • Email–I must know how to compose and respond to emails.  I must know how to download and attach documents to emails.  In fact our main form of communication with customers outside phone calls will be by email.
  • Netiquette–I must know how to appropriately communicate with customers in email.  Proper grammar and spelling are musts.  There will be no “text message lingo” here!
  • Basic Computer Knowledge–Sometimes I will have to help customers with downloading and installing files from the Internet, plugging in devices, etc.
  • Antivirus/Firewalls/Proxies–Sometimes I may have to help a customer disable security software to download files.
  • Search Techniques–As a CSR, I have a huge database of support information at my fingertips.  I will have to know how to do keyword searches to bring up the correct information to help a customer troubleshoot issues.
  • Problem Solving–One of the biggest parts of my job will be using problem solving techniques to troubleshoot issues.  This requires thinking on a multitude of levels and using the webs of information I have access to to find the correct solution.
  • Keyboarding–While I see some CSRs who sort of hunt and peck with their keyboarding, proper knowledge of typing is helpful when you’re dealing with customers.  As a CSR, you are expected to make a certain amount of customer contacts a day which means you’re working against the clock.  Of course, you don’t want to keep your customers on the phone for really long amounts of time either.  Fast keyboarding skills would help since there is a lot of typing involved.

I have seen my trainers use different skills but of course training is a job just like any other.  Here are some of the tools I’ve seen my trainers (former CSRs) use:

  • Multimedia Software–I’m not sure if the PowerPoints used in their presentations were made by them or by the company but the trainers do need to know how to run PowerPoints and present with them.
  • Data Projector–The trainers used a data projector hooked to a laptop for the presentations.
  • SMART Board–They have used an interactive white board to make illustrations and to flip through their PowerPoints.  Part of the training uses an emulator for a TomTom device so the SMART board came in handy for presenting how to use the emulator.  They would just tap the board like a customer would tap on the screen of their TomTom.

I’m sure I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg with this post.  I just wanted to share what technology I’m seeing in what some would consider a low-end job.  (Just to be clear:  I do not consider it to be so!  In fact, I’m quite grateful for this opportunity in the current job market and for the ability to learn so much.)  So, for those students in public schools who may not go to university and who take CSR as their career, they will still be expected to have a working knowledge of the things I’ve listed here.  So, those of you in the trenches, keep up the good work knowing that what you’re teaching will help your students at some time in their future.

yWriter

typingI have had a lot of time on my hands lately so I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading. My preference is fiction and fantasy novels in particularly of late. Terry Brooks is one of my favorite fantasy authors. I know he’s a bit soft for the die hard sci-fi/fantasy readers but I like his style. I have always been a sucker for a good story and that’s what Mr. Brooks does: tell GOOD stories. Most of his books take place in the Four Lands, an post-apocolyptic planet Earth that is now inhabited by all sorts of creatures. His books are clean and, yes, they do have magic but as with the Lord of the Rings series, good conquers evil although it is sometimes at great cost. I just started reading The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy. For those who might care, I am reading his books according to his suggested reading order (which I think is the order he wrote them in) for first time readers of his works. He has a great website and seems to stay in touch with his fans.

I like to think of myself as having a creative mind. I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing my own novel for years. I’ve just had so many ideas and never enough time to sit down and commit them to paper (or computer). I don’t really know if I have what it takes to write a novel or even the necessary commitment to see it through. When I ran into this free novel-writing software a few months back, it sparked my interest in writing again. Over the last few days I dug back through my Diigo bookmarks and found the link. The software is called yWriter and it’s a free download (donations are accepted and encouraged, of course). It’s a light program and I’m running it on Vista with no problems (except I can’t seem to get the dictionary installed yet but will hopefully have an answer to that one soon).

What yWriter does is help you organize thoughts: characters, locations, items, scenes, etc. and provides a word processor to type it up in. Files are exportable to any other type of word processing program if you really want more tools to work with (like Word for example). There is a word counter and a storyboard so you can keep up with multiple character viewpoints.

So far, I have been pretty pleased with the program. Sure, I could type up something in Word but yWriter keeps up with which characters are in which scenes, allows me to easily drag and drop scenes into different chapters, and keeps a daily log of my work.

I’ve never taught writing but I think English and language arts teachers should give it a look. It’s a great tool for beginning writers as well.